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>> rose: welcome to the program. tonight, a talk about president eisenhower with his biographer evan thomas. >> scholars have known for 30 years that eisnehower was a pretty crafty guy. fred greenstein sign of princeton, there are books on campbell craig, a scholar from yale, some scholars have known this for a long time but the general public have not. it is only reason in recent years and really this year in a way tha people have starte looking at him again and saying, oh that is not quite the guy i thought he was. >> rose: we conclude this evening with isadore scharff canadian businessman who found
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add very successful four seasons hotel and resort chain. >> and the employees are the key, because if we are going to have a customer service focus had to have an employee focus. because it is through them they deliver the product. >> rose: they are the interface. >> they are. they are literally the pride, thei approach to their work ethics and thr passion for their job. so it was a concept of, you know, we held out, you know, many years later of what i thought we had a company could do and what i could do best which was only operate medium sized hotels of exceptional quality and to be the best. >> rose: etch thomas and isadore sharp when we continue, funding for charlie rose was provided by the following.
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dirnl funding provided by these funders. >> additional funding provided by these funders. >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. from our studios in new york
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city, this is charlie rose. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: evan thomas is here, an author, a journalist and a professor at princeton. he has written on topics including robert kennedy, barack obama, the ci and wise men in his latest book he turns to president eisenhower, thomas sheds light on aspects of eisenhower's personality that have often been overlooked, he examines how the president's tactical skill informed his leadership and his foreign policy, the book is called ike's bluff, president eisenhower's secret bttle to save the world, i am pleased to have evan thomas back at this table. welcome. >> charlie. >> rose: why do you call it ike's bluff? >> well, he was running a big bluff. he was bluffing with nuclear weapons. >> rose: meaning what? >> meaning ike's central insight was that he didn't want to fight any wars, not little wars, not immediate wars, he didn't want to fight any wars but the ways to avoid that was to threaten to
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have a really big war. at the time it was called massive retaliation and all the smart guys thought that was a bad idea, i mean, henry kissinger,enel taylor, "the new york times", people like that said we need to have, be able to fight small wars, eisenhower didn't want to fight small wars, he fought in world war ii and knew how wars could turn back bad on you and read cloud's wit that war is a mutating monster. >> rose: and had to staley go to korea to stop that war. >> he stopped that one by bluffing, by bluffing with nuclear weapons, so it is a bit of a player, a poker player at west point, he had to give up poker because he was too good of it he was faking too much money away from his fellow officers it was hurting his career. he switched to bridge. >> rose: you don't want to promote a guy that beats you at poker. >> no, you sure don't. but he was crafty and had card players instincts. >> rose: so why did you focus on this part of him, though? i
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mean there are lots -- there are lots of biographies of him, several people over the last several years. >> no, there is a eisenhower moment, it is. >> rose: what is the moment? >> well, he is looking better, the kennedys did a brilliant hit job on eisenhower, author schlessinger and others, think about it, 1960, 1961, jfk, young and vigorous and and some, handsome contrasting with eisenhower, old, golf playing, a little dopey, it was -- and it stuck .. >> and the irony was kennedy was a better golfer than eisenhower. >> there are millions of ironies of this. >> rose: right. >> but whatever the ironies are it doesn't matter, it stuck. scholars have known for 30 years that ice hoyer was a pretty crafty guy, fred greenstein of princeton, there is a book of campbelcrai a holar from yale, so scholars have known this for a long time but the public has not. it is only in recent years and really this year in a way people
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have started hooking at him again and saying oh that is not quite the guy i thought it was. >> rose: so why did he become president? >> well,. >> rose: because he wanted to or feel the need or did the country want him -- >> both, both. he spent a lot of time protesting he didn't want to be president. >> rose: of course he did, because he also carried around in his palm called the indispensable man, saying there is no such tng a the indispensable man which is the exact opposite of what he felt, he felt he was indispensable. >> rose: he had a healthy sense of confidence of his own skill. >> it was a different kind of confidence, it was the west point, 1910 confidence where you are not supposed to show off, you are supposed to be quietly humble. >> rose: and that was george bush 41 too. >> yes, the i mean, there are various models of it, against you the it works pretty well. >> rose: so just before we get to the president and what he did here, shaping, influencing on him,idwestern? >> yeah. >> re: ksasas it? >> i mean he liked to say he was
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poor, but he was so poor he didn't know it, you know, he grew up on this little tiny house that still exists with his brothers and sort of rigorous midwestern virtues, his mother was a bible toting fundamentalist. >> rose: did he connive to become leader of the expeditionary force on d-day. >> no, i don't think so. i think that was general marshall and president roosevelt's choice. >> rose: marshall wanted to do it himself. >> i don't think there was any onnince here. >> i think this was a case of marshall having the kind of confidence that knew that even though he wanted to do it himself the right result was marshall and washington, eisenhower in london. >> there was also this before he became president this world war ii that he had the ability to get people like montgomery and bradley and the rest of them to operate on the same page, despite all of those high level ambitions. >> that was his gift. he was a brilliant politician before he was a politician.
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>> rose: yeah. >> and he was surrounded by these egos and someone once said, churchill wasn't he difficult to deal with, and eisenhower said, well, yes, but in the end, it was okay because i knew i was in charge. >> rose: why was he good as a card player? >> well, he was able to think ahead, he was much marter and could bluff and could count cards he had a mathematical mind and could remember stuff, he was a particularly good bridge player and he didn't take stupid risks. he didn't shoot the moon. he was a careful card player. he would take risk occasionally, calculated risk but he wasn't foolish about it. >> rose: back to the war, you suggest that is after what he did, in terms of the army success was because of his natural politics, he understood that in his -- >> dna, his upbringing, i mean, he just -- you know, he knew how to get along to give the appearance of getting along so he could actually get his way in
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the long run. > >> rose: that was his political view beyond, about war and also what led to the military industria complex speech? >> well hisolital view about war was he hated it as only people who have been there. he was never in combat, interest any, but he went to all of these -- of course he couldn't be in combat when you were general eisenhower he knew too much and couldn't let them anywhere near it and he went to the battlefield afterwards and saw the ugly underside of war, the desertions and rape andll of that stuff, he flew from berlin to moscow in 1945 and saw not a single building standing because of the russian army and the german army destroyed everything so he had very evocative experiences with war, and he had this iight, you know, that w is something that gets out of control. politicians think they can control war. he didn't believe that. so he was determined to stop any war. his attitude with the military was similarly savvy. he believed that national
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security came from a good economy, that that was the most important thing you could do, other than having -- >> rose: exactly what barack obama said at west point? >> right. and was right. but eisenhower kept his eye on that ball, and he knew that the pentagon was going to exaggerate and hype the threat because he had been a genal andhe knew that is -- >> rose: but there were moments in which people thought he should have shown more courage. >> there were. on civil rights he did not use the bully pulpit as well as he should have. >> rose: richard nixon said he was devious. >> yes. you can have in great quote that eisnehower was a more devious man than people realized and i mean that in the best sense of the word. and he was being sincere and wasn't being funny it is true, eisenhower was deef you in the best sense of the word. >> rose: devious in what way? >> well, he wouldplay dumb is one thi i love about the guy guy talkable about his confidence, once before a conference his aides are coming and saying mr. president you have to be careful, you have to be careful and eisenhower said
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don't worry i will just confuse them. and he did. and can you imagine a president today being intentionally kind of confusing and dim-witted, but it was useful for eisenhower. >> rose: something about they don't know how dumb i am or i am dumber than they think. >> he was quoted as a dumb bunny he is not, he used to reached mha but it was effectivto be underestimated and learned that early in life. maybe he carried it too far, his grammar and syntax was not great when speaking when written, you, watch the old press conferences and he would be stumbling over words and then i would read a memo he had written and clear as a bell, like a totally different guy. >> rose: what was the difference in his first term and second term? >> he had a heart attack 1955 so he is gradually running out of gas in the second term. i think he is still a great president but by about 1959, 60,. >> rose: at what age. >> ike is let's see, mean5, he is 65 when he has his first
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heart attack, he has a stroke in 57, he has a so mass operation in 56, and, you know, he smoked four packs of cigarettes a day, as a general he quit cold turkey in 1949. >> rose: cold turkey. >> ike gave himself an order to quit smoking. >> rose: who were those who had influence on eisenhower? >> well as a general named fox connor, lost to history but he gave eisenhower a reading list of really deep stuff, philosophers, and military history and importantly wrten in the original german you know that line is that war is just politics by another means. >> rose: right. >> the more important part of clause and i only knew this after reading this work by this guy campbell craig if you really read clouds wits it has a different meaning and politic politicians can't control war, so clark connor got eisenhower reading and thinking in a way he never had before. i think general marshal was a huge influence, this whole idea
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of the confidence, the sf lessness, you know, marshal i have no feings except except for those i have for mrs. marshal, that kind of model of up right, you know, you can make fun of it but boy it was great if queue pull it off so important models to him. and also what not to do. eisenhower was chief of staff for macarthur, people forget this, general macarthur and macarthur was a vein, glorious blow hard, and it was a lesson for eisenhower on how not to be. >> rose: and we see what happened to macarthur. >> well, macarthur did pretty well, interestingly macartr's -- >> rose: except harry truman. >> and should have been fired. >> and historians have been tough on macarthur lately. >> rose: really? >> the inchon landing? >> that was a single great moment, it really was but he made a lot of other mistakes. >> rose: yes. >> from his vein mores youness. >> rose: he wanted to go to to china. >> he wanted to bomb china and that's what he tussled with
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truman about. >> rose: yes. >> do people eisenhower chose around him and met in different to the generals when he was in world war ii, but when he became president, johnost dallas. >> yes. >> as his secretary of state, alan dulles is held of the cia. >> well, john foster dulles was a good cop, bad cop thing, bull he is was very anti-communist and fierce and life is a machiavellian struggle, that was useful. >> rose: neoconservative today. >> oh, sure but that is useful for ike who could be the nice guy and kind of bland but i might the famous -- at the time, the press thought dulles was running foreign policy and only later did the scholars find out the famous dulles massve retaliation speech, the key lines were actually written by eisenhower but -- >> rose: he wanted dulles to make the speech. >> it was useful to -- alan dulles head of cia he should have fired. >> rose: because? the guy
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that heads up the predecessor to cia? world war ii. >> yes, no, he was the star agent in the. >> rose: he was in geneva. >> yes. the best in person which i guess is near geneva but he was the best. >> rose: right. >> he becomes head of the cia and in the early years they hav these suess and eisenhower liked to use the cia because he didn't want to use regular armies he liked to do things on the cheap and quietly. >> rose: and beginning to do some of that now. >> right, absolutely. i think eisenhower, i mean obama does stuff that eisnehower would like, this covert, use of the drones, now i hope eisenhower would be smart enough to know the drones are a a two-way street and come back and bite you, but i think eisenhower would have been eight with obama doing a lot of covert stuff of killing people quietly. >> rose: so where would you put him today? i mean we always talk about who is gratnd who is not and everybody starts -- >> i mean he is not a lincoln. >> rose: washington. >> he is not a washington, he is not in that league but he i is e
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next rung. >> rose: who is on the next rung? >> is reagan on the next rung? >> yes, actually, i think that ike and 8 are different kinds -- reagan was terrific with the bully pulpit, ike was not, but ike was a great operator, i think more effective operator than even reagan ..n't and. >> and is tr there too, teddy roosevelt. >> yes, i think allof the progressive sff i wrote the war lover as how he loved war, as president teddy roosevelt kept us out of war. >> rose: because he has the heroic thing in him. >> a lot of the great ones have some terrible experience when they were young they have to overcome. ike, it was being kept out of world war i, it was a bitter experience and a lonely officer on the dusty wartime postwar posts and he learned self-restraint, he learned to bide his time, not to decide things too quickly, very valuable qualities as a president. >> rose: when he left the
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presidency, he asked the congress to restore him. >> right. >> rose: as a five-star general. >> kennedy couldn't understand that, he doesn't want to be mr. president, he wants to be general? >> there are a couple of reasons for that. ike liked his central lay, sergeant money who used to dress him in the morning. i have been talking about how humble he is. >> rose: but a guy who would put on his pants pants. >> he had to put his boxers on and ike would hold out his arms and be dressed like a bullfighter. compared his from of to a bullfighter getting a dressed. rose: his grandson is fabulous. >> it is great. >> rose: what is the relationship between his son. >> i spent a lot of time with john eisenhower and great to me. john eisenhower told me, well, you know, i am glad you are trying to figure out my father because i couldn't and we spent a lot of time together trying to do that, and john eisenhower said to me, we were talking about the balance between the sunni, warm ike and the cold-blooded ike and john thought about it and even balance i was saying, john eisenhower thought about it for
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a second and make that 75 percent cold blooded. >> rose: really? this is abo his own father. rose:hatid he man, though? what is an example of cold-blooded? >> well, that eisnehower may seem sunny on the outside, but inside, he can be deef you, hide the ball, and. >> rose: did he crush some opponent? >> huge temper. >> rose: john talked about that. >> yes. >> rose: what were his flaws. >> he had trouble firing people. he could wait -- i liked that he took a long time to decide, he only decided when it was absolutely necessary, but sometimes he took too long. he didn't use the bully pulpit on civil rights. i wish he had ben me reassing to me as a child growing up in the 1950's that nuclear war was not about to break out, i mean, we were all scared to death, i was, the duck and cover drills, all of that and i don't think -- >> rose: you didn't build a bomb shelter in your backyard. >> no but i was scared, nine years old and 1960. and eisenhower could have done a better job of reassuring the american public that actually
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the soviets didn't even have icbms until about 1960, he couldn't get into it partly because the way we knew was the u2 spy plain and a secret andwe codn'tell e russians so there was a reason for it but nonetheless i don't think he was as comforting as he could have been. >> rose: how did he handle the francis incident. >> crushing a yours viewers, u2 pilot shot down and dooms the meeting summit meeting to get along with the russians a very important meeting, cia screwed up, lied basically to eisenhower about it and but many bad things happened but one of the bad things that happened is eisenhower's credit credibility was wounded it was the beginning of the credibility gap some people think, elaborate cover story, u2 as a weather plane, eisenhower didn't know about it, of course all of that was exploded eisenhower was caught in a big lie he came into his office that morning and said i want to resign. he told his secretary. and h he didn't really mean it,t
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was a resilient guy but he was depressed by it and depressed for days afterwards because he knew the one thing that he really counted on was his credibility as president, he had 65 percent approval rating as president and this was a serious dent in that and it was the benning of a long decli in american face in the believability of presidents. >> rose: he liked the privileges of myfe and he liked -- >> he did. >> rose: augusta national golf course. >> he did, he teed off 800 times as president. that's a lot. even obama is not teague off that much. teeing off that much. 230 times at augusta national in -- >> yes those are days he had a lot of rich friends the rules were a little looser in those days. >> rose: went to gettysburg. >> and that's where he lived it out. > he lived it out, right next to the battlefield where the south lost. >> rose: when you -- what was recognize relationship to
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kennedy? john kennedy, his successor? >> at first eisenhower said kennedy was a whippe whippersnas he put it and got to like him better and thought kennedy add blown it on the bay of pigs by not listening to the generals, kennedy, the cia was all hot to do the bay of pigs, the generals were against it but they weren't saying it very loudly and kennedy couldn't really hear that and kind of the secret dog whistle when gerals say yes is rely iis t cia's problem not our problem. >> rose: yes, right. >> so eisenhower scolded kennedy about that, but he -- i think he came to liken difficult and thought he was not just a whippewhippersnapper he had wrin him off as. >> rose: but kennedy's lesson from all of that is you can't trust the generals. >> well it is a pretty good lesson but had to learn it the hard way. >> rose: because after that, that's when bay of pigs, when the miss still crisis came he was able to sort of take command. >> yes. and stand up to consider us the la may. kennedy learned on the job. i am a kennedy fan because he wa brill ereaut ithe miss
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still crisis, 1962, not so brilliant in 1961 when united states chaff is united states chaff is bullying .. >> people were just saying people i knew who were important were saying she a weak president, look what happened in vienna. >> well, kennedy himself told, khrushchev bully him, kennedy's own -- >> rose: kennedy was very good at self-analysis. >> he was. one thing i like about him, that rare thing, the self aware famous public great man who actually s self aware. >> se: and what did he tnk of truman, eisenhower. >> he liked him at first but they fell out during the 52 election and ike was particularly mad because truman brought his son john back from korea for the inauguration, this is bad for john's career, he was in combat, and so eisenhower said to truman, who bought, who brought my son back, john and he said i did, i am still the president and so truman and eisenhower didn't speak to each
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other in the car up to the capitol, it was -- and that bad blood continued tran used to bad-mouth eisenhower about him and spread stories about kay somers by and eisenhower would write angry letters to truman .. that his aide would rip up and not mail and rewrite them in the morning. >> rose: but he was a smart guy? >> eisenhower? >> rose: yes. >> deceptively so because he had bad syntax and liked to play -- i mean he liked to be my band is fred wearing and the paians and i don't like classical music and all of that. >> rose: that was all for show. >> partly for show. i mean he was a clot intellectual deethink read. >> rose: did h go back to playing poker? >> he never went back to playing poker and he had a hard time getting bridge partners because he was sort of disagreeable, he used to chastise his partners, his son and wife quit playing with him because he was so disagreeable. >> rose: the book is called ike's bluff, eisenhower's secret battle to save the world, evan thomas. we will be right back. stay with us.
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>> rose: isadore sharp is here, he wanted to call it thunderbird, the name was taken so sharp and his partners decided on four seasons. that name has become and iconic global brand, sin synonymous wih quality and luxury, the four systems now manages about 90 hotels and resorts in 36 countries in 2007, bill gates and prince away lid of saudi arabia, baud 95 percent of the company for $3.8 billion. sharp stepped away from his day to day duties from the company three years later but on october 5 he will be in toronto to open the new four seasons hotel in the city where it all began .. i am pleased to have isore srp at this table for the first time. welcome. >> thank you, thank you. >> rose:. >> pleased to be here. >> rose: think back to 1961, what were you thinking? >> well, you know, i have to think about it that i was not building a hotel to go into the hotel business.
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i had some years before that built a small motel for a friend and i was intrigued of how he and his wife could make that work, and this is in the middle of limited access highway, on the outskirts of toronto, and, you know, i convinced him to maybe make eight ttle bit bigger and not unfinished because it looked like a big house and he did and he asked me, just as soon as he finished to come back and finish the rooms. so it sparked an interest in me and i decided to try to do that but instead of doing it on the highway i thought if it works so well there, wouldn't it work better to do the same concept of combining the best of a motel and a hotel downtown? so i was thinking as a real estate deal, that was my business, i am a builder by trade and a real eate is what i was doing it for, not with any ideas to go into a different business at all.
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but it works decided i would try a second, it also fortunately for us it worked out and then a third and that sort of the rest is history. >> rose: but the business model is to manage. >> yes. >> rose: not to own. >> yes. that happened many years later as most of us through experiences alter crse. , you kow, you build a hotel and own it and run it, so you are owning the real estate, which is cyclical in its haven but that had never, you know, can concerned me at all because that was the business i was in. but then in the mid seventies, we were building a hotel in vancouver and again, we were leasing it but ownership is the same, and the costs went sky high. and it was way beyond what i could afford and the business deal to me just didn't make sse. o it was a matter of, you know,
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finish it the, finishing it the way we started and compromising it and lower standards. and fortunately, the business partners who were three major companies, without a signed agreement, with a handshake, said like you finish it the way we expected and we will talk to you after about restructuring the business deal. and they did. and that allowed me to sort of survive a very, what couldave been destructive mistake. but it showed me that i can't possibly continue to build hotels and own them with the limited capital i had so i changed the business model then, so that is mid sixties, seventies. >> rose: so you are starting in 1961 so it is now -- >> that is many years after. >> rose: 14 or 15 years. >> yes, that i decided i still -- you know, i still believed in real estate and i made the
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business deals then of agreeing to invest a limited amount in the real estate deal, meaning depending on what would happen i would borrow from bank, from the bank when i say borrow because i didn't is money. >> rose: right. >> and the principle of borrowing it was to determine how much i could earn over five years as a management fee and i would take 70 percent of that and go to the bank and say look if you lend me the money to invest, equity, i will be able to pay you back out of thes fees, and they said well, what if you don't earn the fees? i said well, i won't borrow the money. so the principle was to invest in a manner in which i could afford and that became the beginning of the management contract style. still a small ownership of real
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estate, but i would make a business deal that said, look i am willing to invest three, five, six million, whatever was required, but i am not prepared to gony further as a financial obligation, so there is more money required, whatever over runs or operating losses i wanted the privilege of reducing my equity, accordingly or i could pay up, and that basically had the formula that four seasons has built as you say almost 90 hotels. >> rose: but you did not have starting out with that first hotel any grand vision of building a great hotel company? >> no, no. >> rose: you didn't have any idea that you would ship t siness, shift the business model. >> no. >> you had no idea you were building a brand? >> it was just a real estate deal and i don't know how long i would own it, probably build it, sell it, and keep building houses. >> rose: looking at four seasons as a global company, if
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you look at where your hotels are, these are -- this is from october 2nd 2012. >> yes. >> rose: there is north america and this is europe, this is middle east and africa and this is asia. that's i can't the business is today? >> it is. it is. that's whereur growth i taking place and where i think the future will always be. i just think of india, china, russia, latin america, just the demographics of the population growth, you know, three and a half, 4 billion people. >> rose: is it a difference -- i mean luxury goods i know is selling well in chinese in terms of luxury companies tell me that, china has obviously a much larger and growing number of people with enormous wealth. but are their tastes different? does a four seasons hotel in beiji differ from a four seasons hotel in paris? >> in terms of the interface, in
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terms of the look, in terms of what i would see, if i woke up at this beijing hotel in, four systems in beijing would i know i was in beijing? >> you would, through not necessarily the architecture or the finishes of the decor, but more through the art that might be displayed, gardening that might havean influence in terms of the chinese approach. you do try, and we start with a blank sheet of paper with each hotel so there is no cookie cutter and we do try to create a product that is indigenous to the country and to the city, some places it is easier than others and in china, in some hotels we opened in honjo it has the classical architecture so you can in some cases and a lot hoz to deal with the owner developer, you know, whatre their objectives? and the
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hotels in china now are state of the art modern, dramatically, the quality is as good as we have ever done, and we have just opened several in shanghai, giewng sew, beijing too soon to open and i will be going there in the end of november but the reports back from people who just have been in say these are the best in theompany. so th chesere lking to the future, developing what they need for the international business world, whether it is highways, airports, you name it. >> rose: is it easy or difficult to do business in china? >> well, we are always partnered with chinese partners, owners and the government, so we have -- >> rose: government as a
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partner? >> in many cases. you know, they are -- they own the land and will be part and parcel of an ownership sometimes and they will dersi anddiffult vest themselves of it. so we haven't found any difficulty. in the construction of it, we have had to really monitor it carefully to get the quality, but they eventually do reach that level of what -- >> rose: you mean things like importing marble from italy and that kind of stuff. >> they will but they want to use a lot of their own materials and their own suppliers, et cetera. so we have been able to reach the level of quality that is standard within the four systems, you know, realm of our control. >> rose: do you love the business? do you love it? >> i do. >> rose: do you get excited when you see a hotel? >> i do, because it is such a dynamic business, because you are dealing with people who work and people who use it, and the reaction you get from both of
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those is always a stimulating part of business and it is always different. >> rose: and how is it changing? >> well, i think -- >> rose: other than geograph >> yes, i think the industry is really matured dramatically from back in the early days of going international, travellers are more sophisticated and therefore are -- their expectations continue to rise. so what was good enough for three or four star hotel ten years ago is no longer adequate and the same thing goes for the five-star. people come expect what you have do centl so at have you done for me lately. >> rose: i assume your clientele is a clientele that travels around the globe so they know what is happening in other cities and other four season hotels and they know what a good experience is? >> oh, yes. >> rose: and hold you
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accountable to that kind of experience otherwise they are in the going to want to -- >> and they are trying other hotels along the way. >> rose: speaking about who is your competition? >> well, i would think in each city will have its local competition but if we talk of corporate and global competitors those companies that havethe, call it t critical mass and the ability to market that, the ritz-carlton company. >> rose: sure, it is first one we think about. >> would certainly be more most formidable but there is a mandarin and the peninsula and the one and only and lot of independent, individuals hotel owners within each city. >> rose: do you still prefer big cities to resorts? >> no. we are going into a new country, we will want to establish first in the city before we will extend into a resor. >> us to g a foothold, but, no, they are both viable, they are both part of the company's
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needs. we must have product of both in most major cities and most countries. >> rose: when you decided to give up the ceo job -- >> well, i -- you know, from day one i have always been in control of my destiny and. >> rose: i prefer that too. >> yes. and that's a privilege. but, you know, it is inevitable and i knew m major responsibility -- well look the company has been my life and it is something i have got my -- everything invested in my life in it. so as every ceo's role is to plan for succession. >> rose: right. >> the expected and the unexpected so i had planned this over many years, i enjoy what i was doing so it wasn't a question of firing the, retiring but i wanted to transition of leadership while i was still hell any and around to be able
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to assist. >> rose: right. and fortunately, we have got many people who have devoted the better part of their working life, so there was a young lady that started with the company over 20 years ago, and some years ago i saw that she really had the talent, meaning the belief within the company and a very bright person. so i started grooming her in terms of is this a career that she would, you know, iat th ambitious and family woman, which in is going to be a part of her life which she openly said it was. so several years before i was going to step away from the ceo, i put a new position in place called chief operating officer. >> rose: right. >> and put her in that position. >> rose: so why sell it to bill gates and prince awalid?
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>> 95 percent? >> well, it came to methrough anquity management fund that he thought that there would be a market out there to go private, and i wasn't interested because it didn't -- financially we were in very good hands, health, we had no debt, you know, the company was very financially stable no matter what. and i was not interested in changing a lifestyle. so -- but he said well there won't be change. he thinks there are people out there that are not interested in control from, youn, management. >> rose: looking at it as an investment? >> right. >> so i spoke to our partner, foprince awalid and talked about this is manager he is one of the major, -- he is a 25 percent shareholder would he be interested at all, in seeking out another two or three
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partners? under certain terms and conditions? because i felt the only change that takes place in a company's trajectory is ownership and if something happed to me and with my control, my family, i think would have had to put the company up for sale and then it is a jump ball, who is the highest bidder and it could go to anywhere anybody. so this was an opportunity to control and ownership process that would continue the legacy and a continuity of the company, because i knew what the prince's objectives were. >> rose: right. >> he is always going to own four seasons and he certainly understood what the vals we. so wadon for that purpose, to establish a stable position for the company to continue growing as it had and he is the one that says well let me talk
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to my friend bill gates. >> rose: and i interviewed him in paris at the four systems which used to be the george -- >> right. >> rose: does he own that -- what does he own there? >> he owns the george -- >> rose: that's what i thought. >> and that has been a pride of his and it needed somebodyike him to buy that hotel and he asked me, you know, if i buy that hotel can you make it the best in the world? and i said, yes, but you are going to have to spend a fortune for us to be able to do that. >> rose: why did you say that? >> well, because it already had lost. >> rose:. >> so it was no longer the george stank as we might have. >> zhang sank, as we might have heard and physically it is going to have to be gutted and redone but also the employees, we are going to have to change all of the employees, most of them who might n meare up. and he said i will do what is necessary. and he invested much more than
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what it cost to buy the hotel to do the balance. and as a result of it, it has become an excellent investment for him, so whatever it cost to buy -- >> rose: the george sank which is now the four season paris. >> it is now called the four seasons george sank. >> and he is a good investor because he let you run the company and he doesn't want to tellou what to do ever day? >> no, heis a supportive owner. >> rose: right. when you -- if i asked you this and the answer was not four seasons would you tell me? what is your favorite hotel in the world? >> well, that question came to me some time ago when they extended it beyond four seasons and i said the tripiani in par in venice. >> rose:. >> because of the experience my wife and i had for it. >> rose: because you like venue miss or just liked that place? >> i just thought that was qui
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an experience. >> rose: and half the fun is getting there. >> yes, it i not the hubbub of the city. but if the question which is your favorite four seasons hotel and my answer has been .. and it is a fact not a political answer, the hotel i am in becomes the favorite of the day, because i have been a part of creating every four seasons, whether the newest which is going to open on friday, or an older one let's say it is vancouver. while i am, while i am there, i am only there 24 hours but being involved in that hotel for 24 hours, that's all i think of. >> rose: when someone comes to you and says there is a fabulous new hotel like i have never seen before and it is in thailand, would you get on the next plane and go see it? >> i wouldn't, but i would have somebody who is in that region have a look at it and see if it is something that could be a four systems. >> rose: yes. >> and we go explore and
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research to find out what is the latest and who are doing things we might learn by. >> rose: what might that be today? >> well,we a constantly in the innovation game so we are more or less thinking of things that have yet to be done and basically over the years, that has been part of the history of four seasons is many of the innovations we put in place have become the industry norm. a producer who talked to me about the beds. >> rose: yes, yes. >> rose: what did she say? >> she loves the four season hotels because of the beds. >> rose: what is her name? >> and that we put in place in 1970 because -- >> rose: the beds. what is different about your beds? >> well, it has been developed over the years as a pillow top, it is firm and comfortable. >> rose: yes. >> so you get in and you feel that softness but then it is firm enough that your ability to sleep comfortablably.
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so we have .. been a leader in innovation and we are constantly thinking of what would serve the customer's purposes. something we tried recently is a 15 minute room service for wreck fast. >> breakfast. >> rose: you will get it in 15 minutes. >> it is limited but guaranteed, and we put it as a trial and now it is throughout the system. >> rose: if you leave your shoes outside. >> they get polished and hopefully you get them back the next morning. >> rose:. >> and if you don't it is usually a very much more expensive pair of shoes than we have ever seen before if they get lost. >> rose: steve jobs it is said when he wanted to build the retail stores, and this story is so atypical of many stories of stve jobs on johnson thi who now runs pennies i think, jc penney, focused on the way you ran fou 44 seasons as their gui;
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is that true? >> that is what we just found out recently in his book new book that came out, the apple experience, and in that book, he hired ron johnson and the one question he asked him was, who runs the best customer experience in the world? and ron johnson came back with the answer, the four systems seasons. and in chapter 1 of that book and i outlined how steve jobs acknowledges of creating the retail empire based upon this customer service that four seasons. >> you walk into an apple store that meets you, and says how can i help you? >> yes. >> rose: i find today in so many business establishments you have to search for service. >> yes. it is what most people want is personal service. >>rosethat you care. >> exactly. when we do our market studies
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and focus groups, the four points that come out on top of what people's preferences are, and i am talking for four seasons now, number one is service, two is location, three is the product, and fourth is recognition. so if you think about it, the personal approach to dealing with a customer is key to their -- how they will think of a product. and that is whattev jo understood. you know, customer satisfaction and a good experience in terms of what they are there for. it builds loyalty and it build it is brand. >> rose: steve wynn understand this is too. >> steve wynn follows that in a major way. >> rose: they should build a statue in las vegas for steve wynn. >> rose: really? why do you say that? >> because he was the one who turned it around to become an entertainment mecca, you know, personally, he put his voe on
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the screen. >> rose: oh, know he. >> so he is building major complexes and is developing the service attitude, and which is very difficult in hotels of that scale. >> rose: and first person showcase arts in huge paint ticks, picasso and a whole range of other people. >> yes, he employed the same principles that steve jobs, four seasons. >> rose: exactly. >> the aesthetics do mean something. people do recognize and appreciate things that look good. >> rose: design and aesthetics. >> design, aesthetics and function. >> rose: prince alawid and bill gates, there was to bid there, i mean you basically chose the buyer. >> right. >> rose: was that pair to your stockholders? >> well. >> rose: rather than maximizing whatever bid or did you argue if i do that i will do damage to the company over the long run? >> well, as i mentioned to you, it was important to make sure that .. buyers, the people who
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would buy the company were going to preserve its business model ancreate stability for the people. now i controlled the company at that time, so i, remember i am a shareholder so i am not gaining anything more or less than anybody else would so when we established the price, the approval of it had to be by all of the minority shareholders, so myself, the prince, we couldn't use our shares, so it was really the majority of the minority who voted whether they should accept this proposalor nt. and it was voted positively, so could we have gotten a higher price? i don't know. but you couldn't get a better ownership position than what we achieved. >> rose: will you step down?
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>> well, my partnership arrangements, shareholder's agreement i could retain the title and the operation of the chairman's role as long as i wish. and the role i play within the bean is also part of that agreemet. so i presently am still responsible for the concepts of development and the aesthetics of the existing and new hotels. so it is a role i have always played within the company, and it is what i felt i could still do better than others at this point. but i am training people for that. as long as my health allows me to continue to travel. i am like a goodwill ambassador so visiting hotels is still an important part of what i do and that is still,ou know, a staff morale building process. >> rose: one last question. tell me about your father. >> my dad was an unusual man, you know, came out of the europe
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and actually born in what was called auschwitz, so early on he was forced to leave and sort of was looked after through his grandmother because of the programs that were taking place in poland. he immigrated at age 17 and got a visa in venice to go to- vienna to go to palestine, israel, and was actually one of the original pie mears to develop the first kabutz in israel, dagana and there is a picture of him standing with other men, but boys really and you could see in their faces this stern look of they had an objective far greater than what we normally have at that age. so he had a very tugh, hrd life physically, came to canada
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with nothing, fortunately married my mother, who was a very strong. >> rose: fortunately for you. >> she was, you know, she ran the family, you know, her word, she ruled everything. she was actually head of the women's liberation. she felt women, for her upbringing, remember, women were the bosses, the business people in the family, the men studied the torah and the women were the bosses, and she ok that role on. so i have three sisters, and she gave them such freedom that -- and, you know, they are both uneducated but they are street smart so my father was probably the most tolerant person you could ever meet, gave me such early responsibilities without any of the father-son, you know, sin droanl, syndrome of working together and for whatever reason
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felt that becae i had an education i should know what i am doing. and a lot of me to grow whichever direction i wanted to grow, and years after i sort of started the company and we all ys had people interested in buying, and there was once i would say look maybe it is time to sell. i don't know that much about the hotel business. and he said, you know, you have never worked for anybody. because he wanted to buy the company and i should stay with him, so he was very wise and able to sort of direct all of his children never raised his voice or his hand to any of us. so we grow up in a very strong window mother who -- tough love was her way and a father who was always there. >> rose: loving and supportive. >> yes. and exceptionally tolerant.
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and i remember once his, you know, granddaughter came to him and notarried and stayed, you know, grandfather i am going have a baby, and he said, wonderful. so you can imagine how supportive a person like that is in your upbringing. so both of my parents allowed us this freedom to become who we wanted to be and -- >> rose: the best thing a parent can give a child. >> yeah. >> rose: freedom and confidence to become what you want to be. >> confidence. i think that nurturing in those early year of, yo know, principles and values that guide you, but also giving your children a sense to be what you can be and there is no limits, there are no ground rules, so not having an education, they
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just sort of -- how they were brought up, you know, they were intent to be self-sufficient so we benefitted, my three sisters and i from that, living in a house that gave us the love and warmth we needed and thenthat expression, roots and wings. >> rose: yes. >> so i think they embodied that perfectly. >> rose: roots that remind you and wings to ply. >> yes. >> rose: what was his name? >> max sharp. >> rose: and your mother? >> luncha was the name she was called but lilly, max and lil. and they were -- you couldn't say one name without the other. >> rose: max and lil, yes. >> my father lived to 103, so he h very healthy life, but the love affair between them never stopped and when my mother passed away and she was
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surrounded by 30 or 40 of us in the hospital, when that happened, as they were -- you know, wheeling her away with by dad walking beside her, said, look how beautiful she is, because in his eyes nothing changed, and that is the typ of person he was. >> rose: thank you for coming. it is a pleasure. >> thank you. >> rose: thank you for joining us. we will see you next time. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
11:56 pm >> rose: funding for charlie rose has been provided by the coca-cola company, supporting this program since 2002. and american express. additional funding provided by these funders. and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information
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Charlie Rose
PBS October 9, 2012 11:00pm-12:00am PDT

News/Business. (2012) New. (CC) (Stereo)

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